Perspective from a prominent US-based Kyrgyz successful entrepreneur
Updated: Nov 22, 2020
“Keep building, Keep growing, Keep believing. Life does not get easier, we just get stronger.” — Timur Mone
Economic patriotism runs high among Kyrgyzstan’s entrepreneurs. And Timur Mone is no exception in this drive. He even epitomizes it, by using the tech sector as an assertive means to lift up the country’s weak economy.
Tuz had the chance to chat with this energetic, visionary US-based Kyrgyz founder. As an entrepreneur facing recession, Timur is unsurprisingly pensive about the grim post-COVID world. Displaying his revered mum’s fighting spirit, he refuses to let negativity affect his obvious penchant for optimism. In fact, Timur is already quietly working on some community-based startups.
His story follows the path of millions of Kyrgyz who departed the country to look for brighter futures abroad. From zero-to-hero, his dentist mum had to “hold the fort” by engaging in trading activities first with Russia and then with the US.
Timur’s drive and eloquence is never more obvious than when evoking the sacrifices his mum endured to secure a more comfortable family situation in the US. But beyond his mum’s ordeal, the fate of women and gender inequality in Kyrgyzstan deeply concerns him. After all, he highlighted, women abduction and forced marriage are still practiced. So he shares the view that empowering women equates to higher chances for kids’ success within a Kyrgyz household.
Now fully aware of his US successes and good fortune, he wants to give back. His grand objective is achieving female emancipation and inclusion through education, which will translate into lifting from poverty millions of Kyrgyz. The country, unlike others in Central Asia, isn’t endowed with vast natural resources, nor huge geographical space. Human capital, in his views, is Kyrgyzstan’s greatest asset — but so far neglected by successive weak governments since the Soviet bloc collapsed.
No doubt, it is the flavor of the day: everyone talks about education and human capital. But Timur surprisingly targets the hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz in the diaspora, notably in the US and Russia. He argues that empowering these individuals (who he says remit up to US2bn/year) with some hard tech skills will lead them to returning home with both financial power and technical skills to build a business around. This, in Timur’s mind, will be a fantastic accelerator — especially for women who will follow suit. Based on that, Timur has embarked upon creating a global network of coding schools.
People like Timur shape the views, ideals, and actions of young people in Kyrgyzstan. They help youth discover what/how they wish to become in the future by achieving great results and striving for bigger and better objectives. After a successful career in Wall Street Timur works on several projects that directly help his community back home. Way to go!
We at Tuz have been impressed by the string of successful Kyrgyz entrepreneurs who share such grander social objectives than their personal fortune. We have been amazed by how sharp, no-nonsense they are, as well as willing to find solutions to Kyrgyzstan’s economic problems. We thus wanted to share with you some of these profiles.
We asked Timur to share his views on Central Asia’s tech scene. Below is what he had to say. We transmit here as is.
1- What do you see from the US about the tech scene of Central Asia and Kyrgyzstan: Biggest opportunity biggest turn-off?
The biggest opportunity is people, the human capital is underutilized, underinvested. It’s one of the best, long term investments one can make, is to invest in people. The biggest turn off is the government, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
2-Where would you invest if you had the chance (country, verticals) and why?
Education. The education is broken in Kyrgyzstan, it has not changed much from the Soviet Union. Teachers are paid minimal salaries, and students are cut off from technological advancements due to lack of computers, lack of teachers, and lack of funding.
We are working on this by offering online live classes, community, and real projects to students so they can change their career trajectory.
3- What advice would you give to founders, investors, government?
Advice to government. If the government could stop stealing business from people. We are not asking the government for help, we are asking them to stop being on the way.
To founders: Keep building, Keep growing, Keep believing. Life does not get easier, we just get stronger.
To investors: Invest in people, and be patient. American entrepreneurs are exposed to computers, English, basic familial trust. In Central Asia, families are mostly broken, due to domestic violence, lack of education by parents, and no English. But given opportunities, the driven people go incredibly far in life. People are super humble, friendly, and generally good.
Risks are unknown due to governmental interference. But, there are some amazingly hardworking, kind, intelligent entrepreneurs who are not getting any help, investments, yet we are still building and growing.
Take a chance on people, not ideas.
4- What, according to you, would be the drivers and roadblocks toward success (or failure)?
Drivers to success I believe is Trifecta (Computer Science Education + Startups + Funding)
Roadblocks: Computers to students. Investments for founders. Government.
Failure: Trust, but verify. If someone takes money and disappears, it’s hard to bring that person to law or recoup your investment.
5- Anything you would like to highlight?
We are already working on turning people into software engineers. We just hosted two events, take a look at the traction.
1. Free to 100 Students: Intro to Web Dev and Web Design.
We have 480 applicants, that’s wild.
2. First Online Interview with a top Software Engineer from YouTube (originally from KZ, KG, UZ)
Over 99 people attended.